TEACHERS in Bolton protested against plans to reopen schools on Monday as just a small number of primary schools confirmed plans to welcome children back on June 1.

Despite Boris Johnson’s announcement that schools would begin phased reopening for certain year groups at the start of June, at least 30 primary schools in the borough have no plans to open their doors before June 8.

Four schools have yet to make a decision on when to reopen, with another branding the plans as an “unacceptable risk” to residents.

Julia Simpkins, assistant secretary for the National Union of Teacher (NUT) Bolton branch said: “Scientific evidence shows very clearly that if the government put off opening schools for two weeks the number of deaths would be halved.

“We already know from our teachers who are caring for children of key workers that they spend all day saying ‘stay away from each other’ or getting children to keep washing their hands so there’s not going to be much education happening in that time anyway and it’s just going to be an absolute nightmare.

“It may be true that children are more resistant to the virus but they are probably going to be carrying it so if they go to school with other children they’re going to be taking those germs with them and passing them on.

“Teachers have just resigned themselves to going back to work on Monday but those fears haven’t gone away.”

People from Unison and the NUT met on the steps of the town hall on Thursday evening to urge Bolton Council to reconsider the plans to reopen schools from Monday.

As of today, seven schools are planning to start introducing pupils from reception, nursery, year one and year six from Monday.

Nine will start to reopen on Tuesday, with a further six welcoming more students back from Wednesday.

Information was not available from 39 primary schools across the borough at the time of writing.

Eton private school has confirmed that their doors will not be opening until September, a practice that the NUT believes would make a huge difference.

Ms Simpkins added: “A SAGE report said that waiting till September to send children back to school the number of cases would be less than the number of children knocked down each year.

“It’s very very worrying and people feel like their children are being treated like guinea pigs or lab rats.

“Boris Johnson has said if it gets really bad then we can close schools back down but that means there’s a possibility that many more people might die.

“It’s all very well saying that but once you’re dead you’re dead and we’re talking about people’s lives here.

“England has done very very badly and yet we’re still willing to take chances.”

Most other local authorities in the north west have not agreed to the government’s plan for June 1 reopening, with nearby Bury and Wigan schools remaining closed for the time being.

Brownlow Fold Primary, on Darley Street, has opposed Boris Johnson’s plans to get early learners back in the classroom, citing the high infection rate and an “insufficiently widespread testing and contact tracing system” as the main barriers.

In a letter to parents, headteacher Mrs Cheung called the current proposals an “unacceptable risk”, as school leaders had not had enough time to implement the necessary actions to open safely for the protection of children, staff, and their families.

However, over at Moorgate Primary School, headteacher Debbie Hopwood believes that her staff have taken every possible precaution to reopen safely.

The children will be coming to school via different entrances, with low level barriers put in and grids laid out over the classroom floors to help social distancing.

All soft furnishings have been removed, and a strict cleaning rota is in place to limit the possibility of infection from surfaces.

Mrs Hopwood said: “We can’t wait to get the children back, even though we’ve been in constant contact they’re like our family and it’s just not the same.

“We’ve been very busy putting as many safeguarding measures in place as we can to keep the bubbles small and safe.

“School is going to look very different so to take away some of that shock we thought it would be nice for the children to see the classrooms and how they’re going to look.”

“We feel we’ve gone above and beyond, we’ve done as much as we can and the safety of our children, our staff, and their families is paramount.

“We’ve got to get this as right as we possibly can, it’s a very serious situation and we’ve got staff who’ve lost family members to the virus, myself included, so we know just how serious this is.”

Following the government's announcement earlier this month, leader of Bolton Council, Cllr David Greenhalgh at the time said everything was being done to ensure the health and safety of children and staff.

He said: "Although 1st June is a date we are working towards, any additional attendance may happen after this date. The decision making for each setting rests with the headteacher, the manager and their committee or governing body supported by colleagues in the local authority with decisions informed by the full risk assessment. We will be making local decisions where we feel it is appropriate for Bolton children and our community."